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Is a Puppy the Best Gift Ever?

Updated: Mar 31

Think Beyond the Cuteness!

If you're a responsible puppy or dog parent who is thinking of surprising a loved one with a puppy over the holidays, chances are you've already prepared for his/her arrival. However, some people are likely to bring that puppy home on a whim, without any preparation at all. If this is the case, you might consider wrapping up a leash and collar as one gift, a puppy bowl and some toys as another, and - of course - a gift certificate for professional dog training as the 'best gift ever!'

Whole Dog Journal's Training Editor, Pat Miller, says animal professionals generally frown on acquiring new dogs during the holidays – puppies or otherwise. Not to mention the ill-advised practice of surprising someone with a pet as a gift. But there are always exceptions and ways you can make it work.

Don't get a puppy if you don't want a dog!

While puppies are cute and cuddly and fun and bring much joy, they won't stay that way for long. Think beyond the cuteness. If you want to give someone a puppy as a gift, don’t make it a surprise. This isn't just any gift. It comes with a 10-15 year commitment to love and to cherish. Talk to them first to be sure they want to complicate their life by taking on the responsibility for another living being and then let them be part of the process of finding and adopting their new family member.

Most dogs who are re-homed or relinquished to a shelter are between 5 and 24 months of age. 96% of these dogs have not received any obedience training. Don't let your magical gift become part of this statistic. Think beyond the cuteness!

Consider what you'll need...

There’s lots of puppy stuff you’ll need to make your puppy comfortable, happy, and successful as he learns to adapt to his new environment.

  1. Crate. A crate is an indispensable behaviour management tool; it facilitates housetraining and prevents puppy misbehaviour by keeping your dog safely confined when you’re not there to supervise.

  2. Puppy pen/exercise pen. This is another extremely useful management tool, but it expands the “den” concept of a crate to a slightly larger area, giving a pup more room to stretch her legs, yet still keeping her in a safe, confined area.

  3. House-line. Go to the Dollar Store and buy a cheap leash. Cut the loop off of the end and clip the line to your puppy's collar when you are with her in the home. Use only under supervision. This will help you stop her from jumping up, by stepping on the leash. It will also assist you in being proactive in order to redirect your pooch when they are about to give you an undesirable behaviour.

  4. Collar, ID tag, leash, and harness.

  5. Seat belt. Use a car restraint that fastens to your car’s seat belts and your dog’s harness (never a collar) to keep her safe, and safely away from the driver.

  6. Treats. We use treats as the primary reward to pair with your verbal marker because most dogs can be motivated by food, and because they can quickly eat a small tidbit and get back to the training fun.

  7. Long line. A lightweight, strong, extra-long leash (10 to 50 feet), the long line is an ideal tool to help your dog learn to come reliably when called regardless of where we are or what other exciting things are happening.

  8. Kong toys. Chewing is self-soothing for a puppy or dog. There are lots of wonderful recipes you can find for stuffing your Kong. The magic is in the freezing of the Kong and its stuffing. If you want a good, long, less messy chew, have 2-4 frozen Kongs ready to go. ALWAYS!

  9. Balls, interactive enrichment toys, fetch toys.

  10. Grooming tools. Choose combs and brushes appropriate for your dog’s type of coat (ask a groomer or vet), shampoo and conditioner, scissors, nail clippers, cotton balls, and toothbrushes. Start using these tools on your puppy early, pairing the experience with tasty treats so she forms a positive association with the task.

Puppy Care Service Providers

  1. A veterinarian - Ideally one who understands holistic medicine. Even better, a veterinarian behaviourist.

  2. A Professional Dog Trainer

  3. Dog Walkers/Sitters

  4. Groomers

  5. Doggy Daycare Provider

  6. Boarding Kennel

Establish House Rules

Here are some issues for your family to discuss and agree on:

  • Where will your puppy sleep?

  • Will she be allowed on the furniture?

  • Where will she be during the day?

  • What games will she be allowed to play?

  • Who will feed her; when, and what?

  • Who will train her; how, and for what?

  • How will you correct her for making mistakes?

Puppies learn more in their first 16 weeks of life than they will in their entire lifetime. A day of celebration with family, friends, active children - and all the chaos that comes with the holidays - isn't the right environment to introduce a puppy into. Puppies or new dogs need a calm, quiet and prepared setting in order to thrive. Think beyond the cuteness!

Yours in training,

Jayne Barnstead


Jayne has been informally training dogs for over 20 years. During the Covid crisis, Jayne completed her Professional Dog Training Certification Program at the Ottawa K9 Academy, and set up her business - OUTSIDE THE CRATE. She is a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Dog Trainers (CAPDT), the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), and the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT). She has also received several certificates of completion, including Game Changing Dog Training through the Karen Pryor Academy (facilitated by Terry Ryan), Unleashed Potential - The Core Excellence Program with Duke Ferguson, Trainers Supporting Shelters & Rescue Programs (APDT), Top Dog Academy (Ian Dunbar), and more!

Jayne is a positive reinforcement trainer who uses methods that are science-based, allowing her to adjust her training techniques as new evidence comes forward. Jayne avidly pursues continuing education and professional development by attending seminars and keeping current on all industry literature and trends. She will give you step-by-step instruction on how to train your dog in all basic obedience behaviours and good manners.


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